WashPost Military-Amputee Humor: A "Fair Depiction of Reality," Cartoonist Says

The Washington Post Style section front page features a front-page Howard Kurtz report today on the furor caused by the Tom Toles cartoon featuring Donald Rumsfeld calling a quadruple-amputee "battle hardened." Here's the official Post quotes in the story:

 

In an interview, Toles called the letter "an understandable response" but said he did not regret what he drew. In thinking about Rumsfeld's remarks, he said, "what came soon to mind was the catastrophic level of injuries the Army and members of the armed services have sustained . . . I thought my portrayal of it was a fair depiction of the reality of the situation.

"I certainly never intended it to be in any way a personal attack on, or a derogatory comment on, the service or sacrifice of American soldiers."

As for the Joint Chiefs' letter, he said: "I think it's a little bit unfair in their reading of the cartoon to imply that is what it's about."

Fred Hiatt, The Post's editorial page editor, said he doesn't "censor Tom" and that "a cartoonist works best if he or she doesn't feel there's someone breathing over their shoulder. He's an independent actor, like our columnists." Hiatt said he makes comments on drafts of cartoons but that Toles is free to ignore them.

Asked about Sunday's cartoon, Hiatt said, "While I certainly can understand the strong feelings, I took it to be a cartoon about the state of the Army and not one intended to demean wounded soldiers."

I do wish Kurtz would have asked the question: so Toles has never been "censored," or has there never been an occasion where editors have successfully talked Toles out of a cartoon idea?

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis